MIT map offers real-time, crowd-sourced flood reporting during Hurricane Irma (MIT News)

Spreading the word about this valuable flood-response resource:

As Hurricane Irma bears down on the U.S., the MIT Urban Risk Lab has launched a free, open-source platform that will help residents and government officials track flooding in Broward County, Florida. The platform,, is being piloted to enable both residents and emergency managers to obtain better information on flooding conditions in near-real time.

Residents affected by flooding can add information to the publicly available map via popular social media channels. Using Twitter, Facebook, and Telegram, users submit reports by sending a direct message to the Risk Map chatbot. The chatbot replies to users with a one-time link through which they can upload information including location, flood depth, a photo, and description.

Residents and government officials can view the map to see recent flood reports to understand changing flood conditions across the county. Tomas Holderness, a research scientist in the MIT Department of Architecture, led the design of the system. “This project shows the importance that citizen data has to play in emergencies,” he says. “By connecting residents and emergency managers via social messaging, our map helps keep people informed and improve response times.”


Image from MIT Urban Risk Lab: Using from the MIT Urban Risk Lab, residents of Broward County, Florida, can use social media to upload flood reports that are aggregated into a publicly available map that tracks flooding during Hurricane Irma.



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Rick Shankman's picture

Not a single participant or

Not a single participant or entry into the system!  Not one.  See... RiskMap (not the longstanding FEMA product).

That said, what does MIT do with this whoppingly failed concept?

It puts it front-and-center on its MIT SA+P webpage, and peppers the world with self-celebratory press releases:

As usual... MIT empty rhetoric versus meaningful action.

Curt Newton's picture

Rick, as a FL resident, maybe

Rick, as a FL resident, maybe you can help us understand what actually happened flood-wise in Broward County (the location of this attempted pilot test).

Didn't Irma's shift toward the west spare Broward County from the worst storm impacts?

My understanding was lots of wind, downed power lines, and plenty of rain - but maybe there wasn't much flood there to respond to?  Just curious.

Curt Newton's picture

Damn, clearly Miami area took

Damn, clearly Miami area took a hit too! Thanks for clarifying this ... I think non-local coverage was dominated by the message "it could have been way worse had the track not shifted"

Rick Shankman's picture

Yes Curt, our Headquarters is

Yes Curt, our Headquarters is in Broward County.  This fact made the ignoring of my warnings about the ineffectiveness of the MIT concept even more insulting.  As I had said at the time, once safe to do so, local media would provide detailed coverage of the flooding.

In direct answer to your question...

"Didn't Irma's shift towards the west spare Broward County from the worst storm impacts?

My understanding was lots of wind, downed power lines, and plenty of rain - but maybe there wasn't much flood there to respond to?"

See... WSVN 7 local coverage of flooding in Broward

See also... Tampa Street Flooding Map - updated through the 911 system.

Rick Shankman's picture

Curt, "RiskMap" is the name

Curt, "RiskMap" is the name of a longstanding FEMA product...

Admittedly, the FEMA product is not very user friendly, but without coordination with FEMA and Florida county EM/EOCs, this tool will be useless.

Try this tool (in beta test)... Common Sense 2.0

Once it's safe to survey the area, the local news will be covering the flooding situation extensively.